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Tastings round-up, July 2010

Quite a few whiskies (including some from unexpected places) have passed across Gavin Smith's desk in recent weeks, but have just missed out on our regular 'recent releases' slot. This is a catch-up on some of the most interesting examples.
Heaven Hill, Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon 2000 (USA)
Evan Williams is the first and only vintage-dated single barrel Bourbon, produced by Heaven Hill in Louisville, Kentucky. The Evan Williams ‘family’ of Bourbons commemorates the man recognized as ‘Kentucky's First Distiller.’ Evans established his distillery in 1783 on the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville. The Single Barrel expression is the most exclusive in the brand’s range, and was devised in 1986. Each batch is the contents of one individual barrel, selected by Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam. This example was filled into a barrel in November 2000 and bottled in February 2010. Rich and inviting on the nose, with cooked banana, maple syrup and flapjacks. Polished oak and leather on the rich and oily palate, along with a touch of honey and fresh fruit notes. Long in the finish, with buttery oak. 43.3% ABV, 70cl, £26.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Early Times, Straight Kentucky Whiskey (USA)
Produced in Louisville by the Brown-Forman Corporation, Early Times cannot be described as a Bourbon as it is matured in a mixture of new and used barrels, while Bourbon legislation stipulates the use of only new, charred barrels. Early Times takes its title from a settlement near Bardstown, where the brand name was first used in 1860, and the process of blending spirit from used barrels, aged for a minimum of three years, with five to seven year old whiskey from new barrels, makes for a lighter-bodied, less woody spirit. The current version of Early Times was introduced in 1981 in order to compete with the increasingly popular, light-bodied Canadian whiskies. The Early Times ‘mashbill’ is made up of 79 per cent corn, 11 per cent rye and ten percent malted barley. Cut flowers, beeswax and maple syrup on the comparatively light nose. The palate is soft, smooth and undemanding, with honey, nuts and spices, plus ginger, pepper and mild oak in the medium-length palate. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, $15.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Glann Ar Mor, Breton Single Malt Whisky (France)
Glann Ar Mor is distilled on the northern coast of Brittany, using very traditional methods. These include the employment of wooden washbacks, stills heated by live flames, and condensation via worm tubs. The resulting spirit is matured by the coast. The distillery was established in 1999 by Jean Donnay, and the first official bottling - of a three-year-old expression - took place in 2008. It offers a very fresh and fruity nose, with pear drops and peaches. Vanilla fudge notes emerge with water. The fruitiness follows through on the medium-bodied palate, with a tang of yeast, plenty of spice and youthful oak. Spice lingers in the medium, slightly nutty finish. Sweeter and even more drinkable with the addition of a little water. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £54.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Lark, Single Malt Whisky (Australia)
Australian ‘whisky guru’ Bill Lark began to distil in 1992, when he became the first person in Tasmania to gain a distilling licence in 153 years! Lark Distillery is located near Hobart, and the prevailing philosophy is to mature spirit in small, ‘quarter casks,’ with output being around the 10-12 barrels per month mark. Lark specialises in single cask whiskies, some bottled at cask strength, like this example from cask LD93, bottled in May 2009. The nose offers an initial note of pears, followed by Madeira, almond, toffee and vanilla. Becoming syrupy with time. Full and fruity on the palate, with more Madeira and notes of ginger and malt. The finish is long, consistent and jammy, with mild spices. 58.0% ABV, 50cl, $99.00 AUS, distillery website.
Glenfarclas, 10-Year-Old (Scotland)
Glenfarclas remains one of the last truly independent, family-owned distilleries in Scotland, and is also notable for its widespread use of Sherry butts at a time when the cost of such European oak casks is extremely high. The Speyside distillery was established in 1836, and has belonged to the Grant family since 1865. Glenfarclas markets a comparatively wide core range of aged expressions, from 10 to 30 years old, and the 10-year-old exhibits a nose of rich Christmas cake, featuring most notably Sherry, raisins, nuts and spices. A background hint of smoke is also present. The palate is defined by quite dry Sherry, with a developing and gradually sweetening full body. The finish is long, nutty, and comparatively dry. Less overtly Sherried than some older expressions of Glenfarclas, the 10-year-old nonetheless gives its Macallan rival a real run for its money. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £26.95, widely available.
Tomatin, 18-year-old (Scotland)
The nose of this Highland malt, distilled a few miles south of Inverness, is slightly fishy and gummy, with stewed fruits and malt. Medium-bodied, fruity in the mouth, with more malt and mixed spices. The medium-length finish is spicy and peppery, ending with a rather bitter note. 43.0% ABV, 70cl, £32.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Tomatin, 25-year-old (Scotland)
More profoundly fruity and refined than the18-year-old. Full-bodied, with wild berries, especially blackcurrants, slowly drying with raisin notes. The finish is medium in length, with dry white wine and developing oak, which is altogether more mellow than that evident in the 18-year-old. 43.0% ABV, 70cl, £69.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Macallan, 15-year-old Fine Oak (Scotland)
The Macallan’s ‘Fine Oak’ range is one of the Speyside distiller’s great success stories of recent years, now accounting for one in four bottles sold. Buttery spices on the nose, with coconut, soft fruits and honey. Beguiling. Soft on the palate, very drinkable, substantial and rounded, with ripe apples, bananas and fudge, plus a follow through of honey from the nose. Lengthy in the finish, with gently warming spices, more fresh fruit and a touch of drying oak. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £33.95, specialist whisky merchants.
  

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